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By Ange Lu, The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy

Curist delivers medicine to your door at a fraction of the price of traditional brands. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy during this time.

How Does Adapalene Work?

Adapalene is a topical retinoid that treats acne and prevents clogged pores from forming at the source. Adapalene is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to promote cell turnover. Cell turnover is your skin cell’s life cycle. New cells push older skin cells to the surface and replace them to reveal fresh, new skin. This process gives adapalene anti-aging capabilities that can help improve hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, and skin texture.

What is Adapalene Best Used for?

Adapalene is best used for treating and preventing acne. Acne occurs when there is a build up of oil and dead skin cells that clog your hair follicles. This can often lead to whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. When these clogged pores are exposed to a certain bacteria, it can become infected and cause inflammation, resulting in more severe acne. Adapalene can penetrate the hair follicles to increase the cell turnover rate at the source. This unique ability has the added benefit of improving hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, and skin texture. With its anti-inflammatory properties, adapalene can also reduce redness and inflammation!

To learn more about other skincare products, you can read more on our blog post on Adapalene vs Tretinoin vs Benzoyl Peroxide vs Retinol.

Can Adapalene Help with  Blackheads, Whiteheads, or Pimples?

Adapalene can help improve blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. Adapalene works by promoting cell turnover to reveal fresh, new skin. This prevents clogged pores from forming and stops acne at the source.

Is it OK to Use Adapalene Everyday?

Yes, you can use adapalene every day! It is recommended to use adapalene once a day and apply a thin layer on your entire face after washing your skin with non-medicated soap. Using adapalene more than once a day will not give you faster or better results; it will only cause irritation to your skin. When you are using adapalene, it is important to be consistent in applying it once a day as it can take up to 12 weeks to see results. 

Why Is My Acne Getting Worse With Adapalene?

After using adapalene, you may notice some skin irritation, such as redness, itching, drying, or burning. This can often occur during the first few weeks of treatment or if you are using more than one topical medication for acne at a time. However, this skin irritation usually goes away with consistent and continued use of adapalene. Remember, it can take up to 12 weeks to see results! 

Studies have shown that adapalene actually causes less skin irritation compared to other topical retinoids. One clinical trial comparing tretinoin to adapalene found that the number of patients who discontinued tretinoin were twice as high as those who discontinued adapalene due to skin irritation. 

What Does Purging Look Like? When Does Purging Start with Adapalene? How Long Does it Take for Skin to Purge on Adapalene?

Purging is an umbrella term for the adjustment period where your skin is becoming used to a new product, and it is usually caused by increased exfoliation, higher cell turnover, or rapid destruction of acne-causing bacteria. Retinization is a type of purging that is caused by retinoids, such as adapalene or tretinoin. During this time, your skin may temporarily become red, dry, and irritated. Other symptoms associated with retinization are increased breakouts, burning, flaking, or peeling.

Retinization often occurs during the second week of treatment and will usually go away after about four weeks. Keep in mind that your skin is simply adapting to the new treatment, especially if you have not used a retinoid product recently or ever before. Adapalene is still working to unclog your pores and clear your skin, so it is important to maintain your daily use to prevent any setbacks!

By the twelfth week, you should see a significant difference in acne and skin texture. It is recommended to continue using adapalene every day, even after your skin looks clearer, to prevent acne from coming back in the long-run. If you do not see any improvement after 12 weeks, contact your dermatologist for an alternative treatment option. 

How Do I Stop Purging with Adapalene?

Each person’s skin is different, and not everyone will experience purging with adapalene. However, if you are experiencing purging, here are some ways to prevent and minimize symptoms:

  1. Gradually introduce adapalene: Dermatologists suggest this method to help minimize purging. During the first week, start with smaller amounts than directed and apply adapalene two times per week. For week two, apply it three times that week and work your way up to daily use. This will help the skin adjust to the retinoid gradually.
  2. Avoid harsh products: Adapalene is already working to exfoliate your skin and increase cell turnover, so there is no need to add in harsh exfoliation products, such as scrubs, alcohol-based toners, or exfoliating acids like salicylic acid.
  3. Do not touch your skin: Picking at your acne can extend purging, worsen your acne, and cause permanent scarring.
  4. Dry skin: Make sure your skin is completely dry after washing the area. Topical retinoids can be more tolerable when they are applied to dry skin, so wait an extra minute or two after you wash your skin before applying adapalene!
  5. Other skincare products: Make sure your makeup and sunscreen are labeled “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic,” so that they do not clog your pores.

How Quickly Does Adapalene Work?

Adapalene can take up to 12 weeks before you see results. You may feel discouraged if you experience side effects like skin irritation, but it is important to remain consistent when applying adapalene to get the best results. If you do not see any improvement after 12 weeks, contact your dermatologist to see if there may be another option for you.

Should I Apply Adapalene on My Whole Face?

Yes, you should apply adapalene on your entire face! Adapalene is not meant to be used for spot-treatment. Take a pea-sized amount of adapalene and apply a thin layer on your entire face. Make sure to avoid applying adapalene around your lips or eyes.

Can I Use Makeup While Using Adapalene?

Yes, you can wear makeup while using adapalene! Gently wash your skin and pat it dry before applying adapalene, wait at least 5 minutes for it to be absorbed into your skin and then apply your makeup. Make sure your makeup is labeled “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic,” so it does not block your pores.  

Can I Leave Adapalene on Overnight?

Yes, you can leave adapalene on overnight. Adapalene can cause your skin to be more sensitive to sunlight, so it is generally recommended to apply adapalene before bedtime and avoid excessive sun exposure. Wearing oil-free sunscreen can also help protect your skin from the sun, even on cloudy days! 

Can I Put Moisturizer Over Adapalene?

You can use an oil-free moisturizer after applying adapalene to help decrease skin irritation. Make sure to wash your face thoroughly and pat dry first before applying adapalene. Then you can apply moisturizer and/or sunscreen on top.

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This content is for informational use only and does not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for and should not be relied upon for specific medical recommendations. Please talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns.